Tuesday, July 8, 2008

When it Rains it Pours

Wow. So where to start? I didn't post on Friday as I usually try to do because we were out of the state visiting relatives back in the homeland. Also things had been a bit slow lately. Prepping for a big project (the roof replacement) is no different than most projects. Most of the work is planning, fact checking, researching, crossing t's and dotting i's. And then suddenly at the end, everything is done in one big whoosh! It's the whoosh part that is exciting and fun (expensive too), and the part that people most like to read about. Nothing has changed on the roof front, and I don't expect work to start until sometime at the end of August.

But I digress. The weekend was fantastic. While back in Minnesota, we saw both sides of the family (including all siblings), visited with old high school friends of mine that I haven't seen in a while, and saw college friends, many of whom I also haven't seen in some time. There was fireworks, water skiing and cook outs. The weather was fantastic - sunny and low eighties. It was absolutely perfect for sitting in the shade and relaxing or sitting in the lake and swimming. I only mention how wonderful the weekend was so that its clear how relaxed I was when we returned to the House of 42 Doors.

We pulled up to the house and I was relieved to see that all looked well. A few weeks ago, I trimmed back the huge honeysuckle bushes at the south end of the property and I noticed when driving up that they had sprouted new growth. This is a very good thing, because right now they look awful. I got out of the car and started walking the length of the honeysuckle to see where else sprouts where appearing when I noticed that one of the honeysuckles was about three feet longer than I had trimmed. Looking closer, I realized that the honeysuckle hadn't magically grown three feet in five days. A 60' box elder tree in the neighbors "woods" fell over the weekend and a branch had fallen over onto our honeysuckle.

While I'm sad to see a tree of that age and size fall over, it does mean more light in our yard and gives us a great opportunity to put in a hedge. I'm also hoping Joe will take the opportunity to remove some of the buckthorn in the "woods" now that they are visible. As to any damage done to the honey suckle, they are technically Joe's honeysuckle. They just happen to be growing on my land, barring the first foot or so.

So up to this point coming home was interesting and generally good. I unpacked the car and when finished ran upstairs to use the single bathroom in the house. After finishing my business, I flushed and headed back downstairs, where my wife and I were treated to a rain shower in the kitchen, which happens to be directly beneath the bathroom. Not good. This isn't the first time that water has leaked downstairs into the kitchen. The one other time was when a guest showered and didn't close the shower curtain tightly enough. Water dripped onto the bathroom floor and found its way through the floor boards and a crack in the ceiling.

I ran into the basement, located the cold and hot water shut off valves for the upstairs bathroom and turned off the cold water valve. No problem. Then I shut off the hot water valve, which once closed, busted off in my hand and started to drip. So I ran to the main and shut the water off to the house. Meanwhile, water continued to drip from the kitchen ceiling onto the floor. By the time I got back to the kitchen, the drips had slowed down, so as an experiment, I ran back up to the toilet and flushed it again. The dripping continued.

When we bought the House of 42 Doors, it came with a Home Warranty, paid for by the seller. Basically for $400 a year, the warranty covers repairs to major home systems - electrical, stove, refrigerator, water heater, boiler, plumbing, etc. We already used the service once when our heat went out last January. It probably saved us over $3000 on that job. So being savvy in the ways of Home Warranties, I called AHS and reported the leak via their automated system.

Their automated system leaves a bit to be desired. The first time I called them in January, without heat, the nice automated message informed me that the heating technician would call us in one to three days (at which point we would have frozen to death). When I called them this time (with water going splat, splat in the next room) the automated message informed me that a plumber would call me tomorrow to schedule a visit (at which point we would have drowned). In both cases, they did provide the contractor they had assigned the job to, so I was able to put a call in to speed things up.

By six o'clock, our plumber (who I will call Tim), showed up. After a few tests and even more leaking into the kitchen, he made the educated guess that the original 1921 cast iron waste pipe that drains all water from the bathroom (toilet, sink, shower and tub) was cracked. The fix is to rip out the ceiling in the kitchen and replumb the line. He's coming today at 3:00 to open up the ceiling and do some exploratory work. Gulp.

I know this all sounds like horrible news, but I'm hoping it won't be that bad. First off, the kitchen ceiling is the worst in the house. It's cracked and previous plaster patching jobs were poorly done by amateurs. Then whoever patched it decided to paint over their patch job with a different shade of white [MHH - and a different gloss] than the rest of the ceiling. This is an opportunity to get it fixed. Secondly, the light in the kitchen ceiling still has knob and tube wiring. If we are opening up the ceiling to replace the plumbing, we might be able to replace the wiring. Third, the only cast iron piping left in the house is what runs from the bathroom, through the kitchen ceiling and then down to the basement ceiling. We had all the rest of the original cast iron removed when we replaced the sewer line. If all of this gets replaced, the drain lines in the house should be good for another 100 years. And best of all, this work is covered by the Home Warranty, which means it's going to cost me $60. That's it.

Now of course there's some not so pleasant things while we deal with this. The only working toilet is in the basement and it's a bit rustic. We have no working shower or tub in the house, and the mess this is going to make is going to be a nightmare. When the water started dripping down from the ceiling, it was full of coal dust. [MHH - Black. It was black. Yuck.] Once the plumber cuts into the ceiling, there is going to be dust, plaster, lathe and heaven only knows what else falling into our kitchen. Yuck. The good news is that I'm hoping that everything will be functional by Thursday or so, although I suspect the cosmetic work will take a bit longer.

I'm also a bit concerned about the final product. First of all, the plumber works for AHS, not us. That means that AHS makes the call about what gets fixed and how. They will push for the cheapest functional solution. That may not be what I want. I know that PVC piping lasts forever and is the cheapest, but it's also the noisiest. I don't really want to hear guests flushing the toilet upstairs when I'm sitting in the kitchen or dining room. Cast iron is great for stopping sound transmission, but I know that AHS would never authorize that. It's a "premium" material. I'd like lathe and plaster put back from where they tear it out, but they'll push for sheet rock. Lathe and plaster is more durable and soundproof. If contractors will go for it, I'll be happy to pay the extra for what I want.

I guess it's just another chapter in our grand little adventure. Pictures will be forthcoming.


Pusher said...

Can you put some sort of insulation or pipe wrapping around the PVC to help muffle sound?

Mr. Kluges said...

Absolutely. I asked the plumber what the cost difference would be to use cast iron instead of PVC. The answer was $220 plus another day or two to get it on site and installed. For the extra cost and hassle, I decided to just use PVC. Since he didn't need to replace the vertical, I'm not quite so concerned. I didn't want to be sitting in the dining room listening to the whoosh of the toilet. But insulating the pipe is absolutely an option. If the plaster guys replace the hole with lathe and plaster, I won't worry about it. That's really good at deadening sound. Otherwise, I might wrap it in the pink stuff.